"The Past Is A Grotesque Animal" by Of Montreal which clocks in at 11:53
Rome: 1992. We met in the garden. Among daisies and lillies and bumble bees and fountains made of sculptures of adorable fat little child angels and dozens of loud American high school students on holiday; only a small portion of which were themselves fat little children. Even with their ridiculously loud clothing, unconscionably loud mouths, and 'hopefully I won't get mugged' fanny packs, these were our peers. Each of them was like us, but so much more obvious about their vexed malcontent.
There you were with your Public Image Ltd. t-shirt and belt buckle that screamed Texas. There I was with a hundred lines of poetry running through my mind and a camera pointed squarely in the face of each statue that came my way. Statues are so much easier to photograph than people, and friendlier too. I turned away as you walked by the first time, still able to see enough of you to catch passions just like mine hidden behind your eyes. Upon your second passing you caught enough of me to see I wasn't much more than a clown. I was in the middle of showing off my skills of imitation. Your head whipped around, my friend laughed. It wasn't what I'd call the most ideal manner of making a first impression...
"A dog?!" your face silently said.
"Do it again dude," Rob laughingly hushed as he hit my arm repeatedly. This had already been wowing him for a day and a half: I'd cover my mouth and bark a bit, off to the side, whenever some family of sharply dressed Italians came our way. The kids would spin around and tug at their parents' pants and excitedly proclaim something in Italian. "Ciao ciao fettuccine alfredo!" or something. I didn't speak Italian so everything sounded like an order at Amedeo's to me. I'll admit it. It embarrassed me endlessly given how well I'd been managing with my French in Paris. Of course, equally embarrassing was the fact that I was a skinny American kid wearing a fanny pack. Guess I forgot to mention that part - I too was one of the kids wearing a fanny pack. Our teacher/chaperone was making all of us wear them in Italy. "Baaad pickpockets in Rome... lots of gypsies," he kept saying. It was the first, and last, time in my life I've strapped on a fanny pack. And let me tell you, it dropped my already delicate self-confidence down about four notches. Not to mention that I was in the middle of playing Allen Funt sans hidden camera for an audience of one.
Who am I kidding? Audience of two. I enjoyed what I was doing as much as I hated it. And at that moment - Lord knows why - I was hugely on top of my game. The summer of 1992 will forever remain the three month span in which I peaked as a Michael Winslow wannabe. I covered my mouth, in what was surely the greatest single moment of my entire career as a ventriloquist voice FX guy, and let go of two well thrown barks...
You saw where it came from this time. You were ready for it. You knew it was me and you marched right over to where I stood - even though the dog must've sounded like it was barking from some super-secret hiding place in the bushes far away. I mean, let's be clear about that. I was throwing my voice expertly and nothing but your amazing detective skills could've led you my way. Right?
My instigating friend Rob turned swiftly and walked away laughing.
"Oh my God, that was you?? Do it again, again!" you exclaimed.
I turned red and obliged. I was, and am still, a very reticent performer. This spur of the moment show wasn't what I'd call my preferred manner to try and woo the adorable tall girl from Texas (with fine taste in music) who'd seemingly been placed in my presence by the Gods. Argh! What a mistake. I'd kill Rob as soon as I could get away; however, at the moment I was caught performing my bark for the sizable Houston contingent which you'd gathered around. Thinking back, this was clearly the first sign that you liked the potential of "me" as much as I did you. I'm stuck wondering why I ever let go of my barking ability when it obviously worked so well with you.
Our t-shirts impressed each other and our heights were well aligned. That's pretty much all you need to fall in love at sixteen years old, and I think it helped my chances that I was barking so well when put on the spot. I ended up teaching three guys from your group just how I worked my magic, the magic with the barking. I never did tell them how I worked my magic with you.
It was an unofficially school-organized trip for both of us. Our teachers had gotten together and booked trips for a group of their students to visit Europe and do so in as educational a manner as possible. The two teachers that led our trip were my 10th grade History and English teachers. Actually, they were my Paideia teachers but that's another story for another time. Point is, they constructed our itinerary around what they'd taught us in class, and it was pretty awesome. Your group from Texas was on a similar vacation; as fate would have it, my nerd-fueled itinerary would intersect with yours in Rome. There in the Villa Borghese gardens, in front the Temple of Asclepius, amidst the barking of (now) quite a few faux-canines. I spoke to one of my protégés about the girl I'd just met...
"Yeah man, of course I know her - we go to school together. Duh. But look, you have to get in line. You and every guy in my school want to date her. She's brains and beauty. Funny and smart and cute and hot! And rich too! Good luck with that."
Some might say it was Cupid's arrow, some the way our t-shirts collided. Others would figure that my dog bark imitation skills made your heart skip a beat, or that our blue eyes locked once and never let go. At least one person in my group wondered why my attention was so easily caught by you rather than by her; and the same could be said about every guy who was traveling with you. What can I say? I fell in love with the first cute girl that I met who could appreciate Oscar Wilde and great music at a time when neither of us knew anything of love or life or pain or suffering. Or Rome. Or great music, or Oscar Wilde really... standing on a rooftop in Italy, alone with our misconceptions of De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Gaol, it was a moment of perfection destined for nothing more than perpetual reflection. Frozen in time.
Things could be different, but they're not. It's like we weren't made for this world; but I wouldn't really like to meet someone who was.
August, 1992: Rome. The past is a grotesquely distorted animal. Even the apocalypse is fleeting. There is no death in this ugly world and nothing can defeat you. You're a monument in my mind and you haven't aged a bit in sixteen years. Yet I don't even remember your name, or what you looked like well enough to recognize you if we met tomorrow on the street. But somewhere, there you are. Still bringing the rain, still feeling Wilde's pain. Sometimes I wonder if you've mythologized me like I have you.
*above photo of the Temple of Asclepius in the Villa Borghese Gardens from HERE.
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EAR FARM's 8+ is a weekly feature that showcases songs longer than 8 minutes. In the recent past these songs were featured on EF's 8+:
The Controllers - "Somebody's Gotta Win, Somebody's Gotta Lose"
Islands - "Bucky Little Wing"
Grandaddy - "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot"
Broken Social Scene - "Backyards"
Oingo Boingo - "Change"
Count Basie - "Blues For The Barbecue"
The Besnard Lakes - "You've Got to Want to Be a Star"
M83 - "Couleurs"
To see a full list of every song featured in EAR FARM's 8+ click HERE.
12 June 2008
"The Past Is A Grotesque Animal" by Of Montreal which clocks in at 11:53